The coronavirus has had a disproportionate impact on older people, most deaths in the UK occur in the over-65s, affecting more men than women. But even before the pandemic, whilst life expectancy has increased, healthy life expectancy has not. In this blog article, we discuss the challenges in the current COVID-19 pandemic and how Consultant Connect is being used across the UK.
One of the key issues which the NHS faces is whether elderly patients should be admitted to hospital at all, due to the high risk of COVID infection as well as the risk of falls and de-conditioning.
The major responsibility of looking after the healthcare needs of older patients and their families is taken on by Primary Care professionals and Care Homes. They face huge challenges in doing so, in the current pandemic and alongside winter pressures. This has accelerated the use of innovative approaches, to support elderly patients and other vulnerable patients in need.
One proven approach is the use of Consultant Connect for rapid specialist Elderly Care Advice & Guidance. Our recent benchmark data shows that 63% of calls to Elderly Care A&G lines result in an avoided hospital visit. Ultimately, this could even be a lifesaver for some older patients.
Within a year, from May 2019 to May 2020, a 269% growth in usage of the Elderly Care A&G lines via Consultant Connect, was achieved. This growth was driven by COVID-19 and the acceptance of technology for rapid Advice & Guidance.
Cheryl Smith, a Care Home Manager in Wales, shares her thoughts:
“The service has been a very helpful tool to have during COVID-19. We’ve been able to communicate faster with local GPs for advice on our residents. It’s helped us to provide better care for our residents.”
Dr Anne Mullin, a GP Glasgow, shares her experience:
An 88-year-old patient was “found to be profoundly hyponatraemic (causing bradycardia and dizziness).” He had “recently undergone tests to investigate retinal artery occlusion.” Urea and Electrolyte results came back late from the lab. Using Consultant Connect’s Phone Advice & Guidance service, Dr Mullin was able to immediately contact a consultant at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital to discuss the follow up options.
The patient was “seen at the Department for Medicine for the Elderly the following day where appropriate investigations were performed, and his medication was reviewed.” Dr Mullin says that “this avoided a late evening admission as [she] could discuss the patient’s current functional status with the consultant planning the follow up (which was very prompt).” As a result of using Phone Advice & Guidance, an “unnecessary admission” was avoided.
Consultant Geriatrician in Sunderland, Dr Catherine Barnes explains why she likes answering Telephone Advice & Guidance calls:
The Recovery at Home Team were concerned about an elderly patient, living on her own at home. She was known to have Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, but had recently become more breathless. The patient complained of weight loss and a poor appetite and explained she had been collapsing at home. She had recently been seen in the Emergency Department, but they felt that she wasn’t improving.
“We arranged an urgent Outpatient Clinic appointment, which she attended. We were able to assess her, with access to her medical records and previous investigations. Blood tests, an ECG and lying and standing Blood Pressure were checked and advice with regards to changes to her medication was given. We were able to liaise with other services involved in her care. This enabled the patient to get the assessment and support she needed without an emergency admission.”
More case studies where A&G benefitted elderly patients:
To discuss how Enhanced Advice & Guidance might work for GPs and other clinicians dealing with the frail elderly in your area, please call us on 01865 261467 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.